According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, about half of the U.S. population will have hemorrhoids by the age of 50. Pine bark extract may prevent and treat hemorrhoids. A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that the plant has important anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic properties that treat hemorrhoids as well as prevent new attacks.
The pine bark extract used in the study was Pycnogenol, a proprietary antioxidant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree.
"Topical medications, lifestyle changes, and careful hygiene are all that is needed for most patients to control symptoms of hemorrhoids," Professor Peter Rohdewald, a co-author of the study, said in a statement. "In this study, both topical and oral Pycnogenol treatment reduced the intensity and duration of hemorrhoidal pain and bleeding. Pycnogenol even reduced the number of procedures and hospital admissions caused by severe cases."
The randomized, controlled study included 84 patients suffering from an acute episode of hemorrhoids that began 24 to 48 hours before being included in the study. Patients were divided into three groups. The first group received 300 mg of pine bark extract. The second group received the same treatment as the first group with the addition of a pine bark topical cream. The third group was a placebo treatment group.
After seven days, both pine bark groups reported an absence of bleeding which lasted during two weeks of follow-up. The control group was still bleeding at the end of the follow-up period. The group that also used the topical cream reported significantly lower pain levels. In addition, both groups that used the extract reported fewer complications and lost working days in the following month as well as lower overall treatment costs.
"This study clearly indicates that Pycnogenol is an effective, natural solution in controlling this common, disabling problem and may contribute to relieve hemorrhoidal attacks and offer pain relief," said Rohdewald. "Individuals never affected by hemorrhoids cannot imagine what people go through.
"Hemorrhoids can affect every aspect of your daily routine; it represents a tragedy most people don't realize. Our study suggests that Pycnogenol may help with all major symptoms," he said. "Further studies with Pycnogenol are in progress investigating preventative effects for new attacks and in the general management of hemorrhoids."
Other natural treatments for hemorrhoids include:
• Fiber. Constipation, which is relieved by a diet high in fiber, is a leading cause of hemorrhoids. Foods high in fiber include whole grains and vegetables. Psyllium, a fiber supplement, is also an option.
• Bioflavanoids. Bioflavanoids are believed to treat hemorrhoids by decreasing inflammation and strengthening the walls of blood vessels. Citrus fruits are a major source of bioflavonoids.
• Witch hazel. Witch hazel, a natural astringent that can be used in either a cream or compress, helps relieve the pain, itching and swelling of hemorrhoids.
• Butchers broom. This herb treats both hemorrhoids and varicose veins by strengthening veins and reducing swelling. People who take alpha blocker or MAO inhibitor drugs shouldn't take butcher's broom without their doctor's permission, and neither should people with high blood pressure or benign prostatic hyperplasia.
• Aloe. Soothes bleeding and the soreness associated with hemorrhoids.
Other studies have hinted that Pycnogenol may also provide benefits for various conditions including asthma, cholesterol, vascular disorders, Alzheimer's disease, erectile dysfunction, and diabetes.
Pine bark extract is available in health food stores and over the Internet.